Getting Ready to Launch Your e-commerce Website
If you’re planning to put up a website for your products or services, one of the first things you have to consider is finding the best e-commerce hosting provider. Electronic commerce or e-commerce is the term used for businesses or services transactions conducted online. e-commerce web hosting, then, is a form of web hosting service that manages your e-commerce website.
Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? However, managing an e-commerce website entails more than just putting up the site and making sure it stays up – and running. First, you have to be familiar with the fundamentals of e-commerce websites.
Essential and Vital Features/Tools for a Successful E-commerce Website
An e-commerce website will not succeed if the product management system is not supported and reliable. Features must be attractive to potential customers. More importantly, an e-commerce website must be user-friendly to enhance the customers’ on-site experience and encourage them to keep coming back for (more) future purchases. Here’s a simplified and quick guide on the basic features and tools for setting up a successful online shop.
Choose and register a domain name. Your domain name is your identity on the net; it identifies you on the web. This is what people type on their browser to go to your site. Be sure your domain is duly and legally registered with a legitimate domain registrar.
Find an excellent e-commerce web host. It is best to gauge your web hosting needs against your own level of expertise. BigCommerce is a good option, because they are drag and drop. If you have very little technical knowledge, you may want to opt for an e-commerce web host that can provide all your requirements in a reasonably priced package. (Check below for the specific section of this article for a more extensive discussion of this aspect; and also, read Jerry’s unbiased hosting reviews for more shopping options.)
Come up with a superb website design. You have various options for designing your e-commerce website. If you decide to use the full service of an e-commerce hosting provider, web design is most likely included in the package. However, you can also opt to hire a website designer or you may decide to design your own site yourself. Hiring a website designer can be costly; likewise, doing it on your own may also end up more expensive. But the upside to this is you can have your e-commerce website according to your specifications, making your site look distinct and unique from among the many sites. You can customize it accordingly, to encompass all the features you want to include on your site.
Make online transactions work. You need two basic things to effectively carry out a successful inline financial transaction. You need a merchant account that allows you to accept and process customer payments through credit cards. You can obtain this account either through your e-commerce host provider or by applying at a local bank. For the latter, you need to provide proof that your business is a duly registered one. The other requirement for your online transactions is the payment gateway; a system that automatically processes, verifies and accepts or declines on your behalf, all payment transactions between you (or your bank) and the customer. This system is performed through secure Internet connections that meet all industry regulations and standards, including Peripheral Component Interconnect or PCI.
Provide a shopping cart. This is primarily a software that serves as the interface on your website and its networks, which enables shoppers to choose the items they want to purchase; review their selections; and make changes (either add or remove items) before they make the final purchase. It would be quite difficult for consumers to purchase anything from your online store if you do not have a shopping cart. Most e-commerce hosting providers offer customizable shopping carts for your website.
Ensure e-commerce website security. The importance of online security to safeguard the consumers’ information can never be over-emphasized. It is absolutely crucial for a safe and secure online transaction of any kind. For several years now, the only authentic and genuine standard for a secure e-commerce transaction is the Secure Sockets Layer or simply SSL, which you as an e-commerce website owner can obtain from a Certificate Authority (CA). An SSL certificate is on a secure server that identifies your website during transactions; it encrypts your customers’ information.
Excellent customer care service is crucial. Problems are inevitable and customer service plays a huge role in satisfying the customers’ need to resolve issues when they transact business over the Internet.
How to Identify (and Choose) a Good e-Commerce Hosting Provider
If you’re a small business owner, finding the right e-commerce host provider may sound like a huge task. Looking for a good provider goes beyond merely comparing storage space and prices. You should start by having a clear assessment of what your website needs, thus have a clear idea of the type of services you require.
In a capsule, a good e-commerce hosting should provide fundamental tools, functional features and expedient services to assist entrepreneurs and businesses to efficiently and effectively run an e-commerce business. Here are specific factors to consider when looking for a good e-commerce hosting provider.
Shared or Dedicated?
This is the first and all-important decision you have to make before you even begin looking. As the name implies and to put it simply, shared hosting means your website shares resources with several other websites. All the websites in this type of hosting are running or are being hosted by one (and the same) physical server. A dedicated hosting, on the other hand, has a single server that exists exclusively for your e-commerce site. All other things considered, the determining criteria for your choice are: the quality of hosting performance; how much control you have (which includes security issues); and the price.
Server Features vis-à-vis the Services You Require
When choosing an e-commerce web host provider, look for features that offer full-service e-commerce packages. Among the features and services you may want to look for are the following:
- Look for an e-commerce web hosting provider that offers options of operating system (OS) to ensure that any and applications or scripts you run are fully supported.
- A good e-commerce provider should enable you to set up, create and handle email or new accounts in a prompt manner.
- Make sure that the e-commerce hosting provider also furnishes tools for shopping cart services, which of course includes credit card or PayPal payment transactions and other similar services. Check that the web host can provide the required SSL encryption which complies with PCI standards and regulations. Bear in mind that you have the option to remove the payment and ordering process from the package and assign it to a third party provider to handle the data capture and data storage.
Bandwidth and Disk/Storage Space Options
- Adequate storage space and fully customizable products and categories should be provided. Go ahead and have a lot of foresight; be farsighted and optimistic. Your business is likely to expand in the long run. It is essential that you are able to store a wide range of pages and products on your website to; this will save you the inconvenience of purchasing additional space – or worse, moving your site to another server.
- Check the restrictions and bandwidth limits. Most providers set a limit for the maximum amount of traffic your e-commerce website can handle. Traffic and visitors to your site are expected to spike as your business expands; bandwidth may become an issue if you don’t get your facts right at the onset. Look for a provider that will not just turn off access to your site; but will assist to upgrade you to the next level plan if you go over the prearranged band.
- Find out the geographical location of the web server. It is crucial to know where the web servers are located to make sure there is no slow down in loading time and accessing your site.
Beyond the Basics: Other Features and Perks
- Another factor that you should identify is the downloadable products. Although, not really important to some retail websites; this can be essential and practical if you are planning to distribute promotional items and giveaways along with your products for sale.
- During peak seasons, it also a must that your web host is equipped to provide you with coupon codes. This is needed because it gives you the ability to be competitive during peak holiday events.
Choosing the right e-commerce web hosting provider can be a bit tricky; but if you have enough information and adequate working knowledge, you can eventually make a well-informed decision. Remember, you want to invest and get professional plans and services for your e-commerce website. Don’t settle for a company that only has experience in personal website hosting.